March 23, 2009Hat tip: email. Photo credit: McClatchy
Two weeks ago, I communicated that we were still developing our expense reduction plans and would finalize and share them with you as soon as possible. I have tried to keep you up to date since then.
Today, I want to let you know what those plans mean for the Herald-Leader. We are announcing the layoffs of 49 full-time and four part-time employees, or 15.3% of the total FTE base. We also will be reducing some full-time jobs to part-time, offering a few people lesser positions and not filling some positions created by retirements and other vacancies.
Regular full-time and part-time employees who are laid off or who decline a non-comparable position would be eligible for the regular severance, which is a minimum of four weeks to a maximum of 26 weeks based on years of service. We also will be working to assist those people transitioning from full-time to part-time status.
In addition, we are implementing a 5% wage reduction for all employees who make $25,000 or more annually except for those full-time employees whose hours are being reduced to part-time. Members of the executive group, including the publisher, will see a 10% reduction in salary and, as I announced in an employee meeting last month, the elimination of the bonus plan for 2009. Every employee whose wage is being reduced will receive a letter detailing the impact on his or her pay and will have the opportunity to ask questions. These wage reductions take effect on April 6, 2009.
Although much of the job reduction will occur through involuntary layoffs, there also will be opportunities for some employees to voluntarily elect a severance package where reductions are occurring in most work groups of two or more employees. If enough employees do not take the voluntary option, then the work groups will be reduced according to least tenure in most areas. Two exceptions are the newsroom bargaining unit, where we have a contractual obligation otherwise, and in advertising sales.
Reductions will occur throughout the operation. Employees affected by the reduction are being notified as quickly as we are able to do so and they will be provided with information about a severance package. It will take most of the day to get through all of the divisions because we plan to try talk to every impacted person. I ask each of you to be patient through this process.
This is a tremendously difficult and disrupting event for displaced employees, their families, the paper and those who remain. We are losing many valued, well-respected and well-liked colleagues. We appreciate all that they have done for the Herald-Leader and will do everything we can, including outplacement assistance, to make their transition as respectful and smooth as possible.
As you know, the company last week negotiated with the Newspaper Guild the right to implement a one-week unpaid furlough between now and March 31, 2010. We are not planning furloughs for the first half of the year. However, we may revisit that option later in the year if financial conditions do not improve. We think it is important that you know it is a possibility, and details will be provided if and when a decision is made.
Also, we are taking many other actions on both the revenue and expense sides that will become apparent over the new few weeks. They include but are not limited to circulation pricing, newsprint and other expense categories both large and small. Additionally, we plan to launch a used-car niche publication for which local car dealers have been asking that we believe will fill a void in the market left by the departure of Auto Trader.
We will get through this. The Herald-Leader has been published under one nameplate or another since the late 1800s and it will be around for a long time to come. Print and online combined, we are reaching many more people than we ever have before. We will still have, by far, the largest newsgathering force of any media outlet in Central, Eastern and South-Central Kentucky. And the recent pairing of Yahoo! behavioral targeting with Kentucky.com allows us to provide unparalleled penetration for advertisers – 90 percent of all online users in a 40-county area.
Again, I want to apologize for all of the disruption that you have experienced over the last few weeks. This is a very difficult time for everyone, and it will continue to be difficult as we adapt to a new way of doing business.
The decisions we have had to make have been wrenching because they mean saying goodbye to so many friends and colleagues. But we must make these additional cuts to adjust to the new competitive and economic realities and to ensure our continued viability. I respectfully ask, as I have in the past, that we keep our focus and continue to work hard to help our newspaper and our websites succeed.
Please contact Jim Green, Michael Wells or Cindy Frazer in Human Resources if you have any questions about the severance program or wage reductions.
And please know that I deeply appreciate all that you have done and continue to do.